My Treasure Chest of Thoughts

Tammy Gillmore: Reader, Writer, Thinker, Believer, Achiever

My Treasure     Chest     of      Thoughts

Assumptive Teaching? Oh, No! Guilty!

January 25, 2015 · No Comments · Personal Reflections

Our English Department is reading, discussing, implementing  20 Literacy Strategies to Meet the Common Core.  Last week, we met to discuss Strategy 3:  Prove It.  In the midst of this, though, a term jumped off the page, grabbed me, and requested that my brain hit pause.

What Is Assumptive Teaching?

Teaching that assumes that because students have been taught content that they know it.  That’s right…that content was covered last year.   Of course, they know it!

A Better (or worse) Example:

I planned a 15-minute bell-work giving students time to develop their outlines for our upcoming essay assignment.  That’s right…yes, we created outlines last semester in my class under my tutelage.  Outlines with parallel structure.  Of course.

Thirty minutes into the lesson, I became a live example of non-assumptive teaching as I re-taught what they had not mastered last semester. Modifying and adjusting.  That is what we used to call this guiding principle.

The Irony

When a new year begins,  I tend to re-teach, accepting that many have lost much over the three-month summer break, gauging their responses verbally and via formative assessments how much each have actually retained.   The irony, though, is that the above bell-work lesson hit just a bit close too home when my students did not retain what I had assumed they would have from the previous semester.  Or should I look at this glass as half full and thank them for giving me this example to discuss during book club?!

I assume, though, that many students have mastered content when I see the “we got this” face and positively nodding heads…and so we move on.  Not stopping.  Just moving on and leaving students further behind.

My Concern

Could assumptive teaching ever be used interchangeably with high expectations?  Expecting students to learn, to retain, to master content, these are obtainable goals.  After all, that is our job:  to teach students to learn.  Because I have high expectations, I “expect” them to learn; thus, I should not have to re-teach, assuming they know all I have ever taught them.

Please re-read the above paragraph and find the fallacy.

Yes, that line of thinking is flawed.  So is assumptive thinking.

Here’s to assumptive-free teaching!


Additional Resources on Assumptive Teaching:

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The Year Advances

January 17, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

During a time when so much negativity abounds within our world (ISSIS, debt, shootings…), focusing on the positive might take a leap of faith.  Would you join me for some “leaps“…

  • This past week or so, two of our teachers experienced losses within their families.  When I asked who might want to donate so we could take meals to these families, the money poured in…in two days, nearly $500 flooded the envelopes for each.  This speaks to two topics: 1) how well-respected these ladies are and 2) the huge hearts of our work family.  Just a feel-good moment, isn’t it?
  • Began a Word-of-the Week since we returned from Christmas Break, focusing much more now on actually mastering a new word.  So far, we have learned harbinger and prodigious.  I chose these words based on what I am reading during each week.  As I come across a word that I have noted before, that one says, “Choose me for this week’s word.”   As of now, our word for week three is vicarious…still have a few hours of reading ahead me, so that might change!
  • We hosted our first Socratic Circle of the year.  A huge success!  As one young man stated, “Why don’t we do these every day?”  Indeed.  Upon reflecting, I pushed them to produce too much evidence from the two assigned articles.  I had told them that comments must be based on evidence to receive credit, so they worked hard to fulfill that goal, to the point, though, that much of the “discussion” was simply reading quotes.  I will now go back to Matt Copeland’s book Socratic Circles:  Fostering Critical and Creative Thinking and review some for myself, for I, too, am still mastering this method. An excellent resource, this book is.
  • Our thematic topic on gender roles kicked off to a tremendous start.  Yes, they each have input on this one!  Note to self:  I do need to move this unit to the second nine-week grading term, for during the third nine-weeks  we have fewer interruptions, as long as the weather cooperates (supposed to be near 60 today…wow!), for reading Macbeth.
  • On the topic of gender, I found this article to use as we pay tribute to MLK within our classes on Monday/Tuesday.  An interesting read, one in which I found our next Word-of-the Week.
  • Our senior high school girls’ basketball team, for whom my niece plays, is 3:0 in conference.  I know…that has little to do with my classes, but considering their record since I began teaching in this district, quite a leap has occurred…and I have family member playing a team, a first for me!  Go, Pioneers!

I hope 2015 produces many “leaps” for you!  Please share one…or two!

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Third Quarter Is Calling

January 6, 2015 · No Comments · Book Club, lesson plans, Personal Reflections

Back to school!  Day one already completed.  The brain has had to shift into gear after a two-week break as I continue pondering on which journeys we will take this nine weeks.  We have so many places to go!

  1. Write the history of our school.
  2. Research society’s impact on gender roles (will kick this off with a Socratic Seminar).
  3. Travel back in time and explore gender roles in literary pieces.
  4. In essence, write three papers.

In addition, on this journey we will welcome another Tour Guide as I will have a student intern this spring.

We began this new grading period with several entries in our Writer’s Notebook (I say we…for I write with them…by jigsawing four topics.  Up and moving, they were…gave them a chance to chat on this our first day back) and  a Word-of-the-Week. For our first word, I chose harbinger, for this first day back is a sign that the end for my five classes of seniors that May 15 (graduation day) is quickly approaching.  Word-of-the-Week is a different approach than I have taken before, an approach I am trying to assist in my obtaining my personal professional goal of teaching vocabulary using more methods.

Again, this time, I also started off with my asking each to take the My One Word Challenge.  When asked to share, several shared in one class, touching my heart with how much thought and emphasis on self-growth they wanted to reach this year.  A very good thing! This was also an opportunity for me to share my life with them as I related my choice of words over the last five years.  It was a good lesson…a good time spent with my kids today.

During lunch, our faculty reading group met, discussed our last two books (yes, we had gotten behind!), and chose our next read:  Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.  A new release in 2014, this one is just $3.99 on Kindle (quite the savings).  Call me old fashioned, but I still resist reading online.  I just love the feel of a book, but for the sake of my wallet and my over-flowing books shelves (literally), I purchased the Kindle edition.  A good deal!

Happy teaching, listening, and reading in 2014!

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My 15 Intentions…

January 1, 2015 · No Comments · Intentions

This year my One Word is completer.    With this word in mind, I have chosen 15 things I would like to complete…in no certain order…

  1. Read and complete more classics. Six is my goal with Rebecca being my first choice.
  2. Complete more professional reads.  I have a “basic” ASCD membership and with it, I receive five newly released PD books.  I want to read three (front to back) before this year is over.
  3. Complete more woman-hours improving my marksmanship.  Plus, this means quality time with The Hubby.  Yes!
  4. Completely learn more gospel songs…especially those in our church song book.  So many beautiful songs in that book.  Songs I want to learn.
  5. Continue book club involvement:  both for our BHS Reads and for the Paper Chase Bookstore.  This year, I signed up at Library Thing for the 75′ers…to read 75 books in 2015.  (Today, I started the first one!)  Here’s a link to my reading intentions for 2015.
  6. Complete Bible studies with the group of ladies that meet at our church.  Just really love this time.
  7. Completely read the Bible through this year by signing up for and completing Joanne Weaver’s challenge.  I am also happy that Beth Moore’s SSMT is back.  Click here for more info.
  8. Develop more “complete” relationships with my students.  I want to go back to being THAT teacher, the one they remember years later as the caring one, yet the one who has high expectations.
  9. Develop more complete professional relations.  I would like to become more active on the state level in our reading association and within our state’s National Board organization.
  10. Write.  Blog on one of my four blogs a minimum of two times a week and possible submit an article to a professional magazine.
  11. Cultivate relationships.  With friends.  With my children.  With my husband.  With our families.
  12. Say no.  No.
  13. Teach.  Complete my four units of study more.
  14. Tammy Time:  quilting, crocheting, reading, gardening, painting.
  15. Peace.  Quiet.  Fit.  Smile. These were my four words for My One Word Challenges for the previous four  years.  These words have had such tremendous impact on my life.  Please, please consider going, learning more about this inspiring opportunity, and committing to whatever word chooses you.  I don’t want to leave these words behind…want more of all four!  Plus, now, I am ready to COMPLETE  my next word….

Reads like 2015 will be full of great intentions! Happy New Year!

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Reflecting on 2014

January 1, 2015 · No Comments · Intentions

Just want to take a moment…or two…and reflect on 2014.  Listed below were my 14 Intentions (make these instead of resolutions; have more success that way!):

  1. Read more classics. My goal was six…read three.  Ugh…Going to keep this one in my list to accomplish for 2015.
  2. Complete more professional reads.  I did work on this one more. Did not complete as many as I had wanted.  Am currently reading two as part of book clubs.
  3. Maintain a clean car.  Uh…no.  It needs a bath right now.
  4. Improve my marksmanship.  Not as much as I had intended.
  5. Learn more gospel songs.  Learned several new songs!  Finally, a sense of accomplishment!
  6. Be active in book clubs.  Very successful here…almost to the point that they became almost more than I could read.
  7. Develop my professional relations.  Yes, I am more involved in WRRC, ARA, and the Arkansas group of National Board teachers.
  8. Write.  I did not write as much as I had intended nor did I publish has I had hoped.
  9. Cultivate relationships. This I did to some extent.   Am learning that I am more and more happy just being me.
  10. Say no.   Hum…no, I did not do so well on this one, especially towards the end of the year.
  11. Teach.  Yes!  At school.  At church.  For Lyon College.
  12. Open the Right Doors.  God seems happy with my not opening doors.  I did not open as many as I hoped.  That is fine.
  13. Peace.  Quiet.  Fit.  Love these words; still working on them!
  14. Smile.  :)  This I did; not as much as I had hoped, yet it was an awesome choice for me.

All in all, a hefty list.  All in all, I am okay with what I “intended” to accomplish and what I actually did, for when my father-in-law passed in May, our lives took a shift as we began spending most of our evenings with my mother-in-law, watching movies and TV, quilting, chatting.  Some of these Intentions took a backseat as others priorities took over.

I do like creating this list of Intentions, rather than Resolutions, for they seem more obtainable, more achievable.

Now, to create my list of 15 Intentions…Happy New Year!

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Still Having Fun…and Winning, Too

November 1, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

We are still having fun in English 12.  This week was Red Ribbon Week, so I offered the prize money to a class if they would help decorate my door for the annual photo (3)Door Decorating Contest.  Good news!  We won second.  No prize money, though…but I did share my bag of candy goodies with them.  ”Owl” always remember them fondly!

For three Friday’s now, one class has written similes for that night’s football game, and so far, they have all come to pass.  You know how it is….once you do something, then you can’t stop, for it might cause them to lose!

  1. Running like the wind, the Pioneers will win against Wynne.
  2. Beating like Spartans’ hearts with their war drums, the Pioneers will beat Blytheville at Friday’s game.
  3. Souring like an eagle and then stalking its prey, the Pioneers will devour GCT.

Secretly, hidden within this challenge?  The mastery of participial phrases and the creation of similes.  Sneaky, right?  AND maybe, just maybe?  Those similes are just very powerful!

Now, the true fun begins….hooking them onto the plotline of Macbeth and retaining that interest throughout our reading this drama.  Began that process, as we watched the first two witches’ scenes in honor of the Halloween weekend.  Perfect timing.

Now to grade their latest essays and to, hopefully, share back with them some “fun” grades!


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Sometimes, You Have to Have Fun!

October 25, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

This week was Homecoming Week.  As I type, my baby is at her first Homecoming Dance with a boy.  Hummm…but back to the above title.

How about This Fun:Taylor_Gillmore Homecoming 2014

  1. This week, one of the seniors asked me to pair up with her and dress up each day. For four days, I had spirit!  Go, Pioneers!
  2. Sponsor of the third annual Homecoming Parade, my Beta Club took Best Theme float.  The best part?  The club members stepped up and did all the work on the float
  3. After the last pep rally, I determined that we teachers needed to have just a bit more spirit.  Yes, we do!  AND we did.  So much so, that we won one of the of the Spirit Week awards.  Pictured at right are myself and our new history teacher wearing our tutus.  My first tutu, this one made me feel about eight years old!  Fun!

Why Have Fun?

This week built, strengthened relationships with students as we played and just had fun.  As H. Richard Milner from Harvard University presents, “It is important for teachers to attend students’ activities—such as their plays or sporting events—even when they are not on duty as coaches, chaperones, directors, or sponsors. Teachers from elementary through high school should feel a sense of responsibility to be present at events that help complete students’ educational experiences such as those connected to extra-curricular activities.”  With this, I agree.

Today, I turned 48.  This is my 24th year of teaching.  This totals my having a minimum of five years to have fun…and then back into the classroom to work, to teach, and, hopefully, having fun there while learning, working those strengthened relationships to prepare them as well as I can for the days, the weeks, the years after graduation.

How do you have fun in the educational setting?

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The Eighth Week

October 12, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Already?  Yes, we just completed the eighth week of school.  Wow!

Stressed, I am, just a bit, due to our not being in the lesson plan book where we were at this point last year.  After some reflection, though, I concluded the following:

  1. I am going slower than last year for two reasons:  I probably push my students too hard, and in my attempt to create a blended curriculum, I am listening to the students and hearing that they are not as appreciative of these attempts.  For instance, in one day’s lesson, we may cover appositives, a writer’s use of metaphors, and the students’ answer to our essential question (in a 90-minute block). As I sit and ponder, I am just about convinced that these students’ responses are my fault…oooppsss!…due to my not properly setting the lesson by covering the day’s objectives.  Seems almost too simple.   I know what I want to cover…and I go for it, not pausing to begin with the end in mind.
  2. I added a project when I wrote and received a grant allowing my students to write and publish the 130-year history of our high school. After initiating the project, I spent a week taking each class to the local museum.  Very pleased with the students’ comments, from the appreciation of the history there to the pleased results of acquiring evidence they will use in their narratives of their assigned year.  Fun…just more time out of class.
  3. Our pre-assessment took four days.  Too long.  Especially when we miss for other extracurricular activities:  pep rally, graduation meetings with Jostens, senior group photo.  All needed and essential to making memories, but activities that sure cut into the curriculum.  Back to that pre-assessment, while I supported the design and intent, it was time that spent on a skill that none of our students had ever addressed.  Yes, this data we could have gathered in a shorter span of time.  On the plus side?  We utilized technology, learned much, and mastered it (for the most part!).

At least three weeks behind.  Or not.  We just are where we are.  As I looked at the anchor charts hanging around the room, I concluded they pictorially represent our eight weeks together, summing up the skills covered thus far.

The Ninth Week

Take up that essay!  Grade those essays, witnessing what I am sure will be growth in these senior writers, as I forced them out of their comfort zones, requiring them to use “chunk” writing, receiving the longest paragraphs these writers have ever created, ones containing signal phrases, evidence, and commentary, with stronger introductions and conclusions.

Will they be good?

  • A few will be.
  • Many will need so much work.
  • Several will simply be works in progress.
  • All will be more than they have ever written before.

Last Year and Next Year

Already this year, several of my former students have returned, proud of themselves for their success in their college comp classes.  That is why we teach as we do, isn’t it?  That is why I will push these to write more evidence-based papers than they want, but that’s okay, isn’t it?

That is why we teach as we do…for life after graduation day.

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A Trip to the Museum

October 2, 2014 · No Comments · Chronicling the History of BHS

Actually…five trips to the museum.

Over the past week or so, I took all five of my English 12 classes to the local county museum to research one year in our school’s 130-year history.  So interesting.  Shamefully, I had only been to the museum to vote.  Isn’t that awful?

We made significant progress in determining topics and most of the students expressed sincere interest and appreciation for the information they were discovering to fulfill their assignment:  for their assigned year choose one focus and write one page (a double-page spread), a manageable goal.  Right?

Why are we doing this project?

I wrote a grant and received funding to write this history and then, more importantly, publish the history in real-book format, of which each student who contributes will receive a free copy.  All published authors.  That is just too cool!

The students will have input and choose everything…the layout, the thematic elements, the cover, with their final input determining what gift the class as a whole will leave the school from the profits they will make from selling additional copies of this masterpiece.

The real purpose?

This is authentic writing for a real audience for an invested purpose, and what a difference this had made.  Not just a paper for me, the teacher, to read, but a paper their families and many of the featured persons will read.  Authenticity, student ownership…both so vital to students’ buying into the success of any endeavor.

One challenge I am encountering right now is that many of the students want to focus on football.  While I appreciate all extra-curricular activities (I do sponsor my share!), much more exists in the history; hopefully, as our ladder of chosen topics develops, the students will see the value of including such a variety of selected features.

I hope to develop additional such projects, for I truly appreciate the synergy among the students.

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On My Mind…

September 4, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Because I have five minutes….I am going to write for five minutes!

Life.  Isn’t it just the craziest thing?  And a busy life it is.

Class Schedule

This year, I have five sections of English 12 and one of journalism, all of which are moving right along.

  • English 12:  We are still in the getting-into-school phase.  This week, we have focused on a pre-literacy assessment, and in an attempt to model the upcoming PARCC assessment, we are attempting an online version. Craziness getting all of them to activate their student emails and using Chromebooks (nice!) but which are not what I have been used to within my classroom (I have a class set of mini-computers).  Hoping that next week, we can actually dive into our thematic unit for this nine weeks.
  • Journalism:  This class’s numbers grew, and at the rate that they are producing articles, they will be ready layout and design next week.  Awesome!

Book Club

Very much alive and well for the teachers! Yay!  I am excited!  A bit about our selected reads:

  • Professional Development:  Along with our state’s ASCD group, who is hosting a state-wide book club, twelve of us (all volunteers) will be reading Five Levers to Improve Learning.  This study runs through March and should be managable on teachers’ busy schedules.
  • September:  The group chose Justin Cronin’s The Passage…at my recommendation, one I just passed along from a family member.  I am barely into the novel…will have to share more about that one later.
  • October:  The Finisher by David Baldacci, a young adult novel, will capture our imaginations.  I also recommended this one, hoping to read another engaging novel to recommend to our students.

My five minutes are up…be back soon!  Really want to continue my posts on 20 Literacy Strategies to Meet the Common Core (recommended this book to our academic coach…hoping we will read as an English department!).

Hope your year is off to a happy start!  Happy New School Year!

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